At the Universal Music Group label luncheon show at Nashville's Country Radio Seminar Wednesday (Feb. 22), George Strait surprised the Ryman audience with his guest appearance -- but fellow star Vince Gill had a surprise of his own. Before launching into his song 'The Red Words,' the 'Threaten Me With Heaven' singer told the audience, which was full of radio personnel, that he was performing that day as a thank you to radio, since he is no longer an MCA recording artist (part of UMG).

“For the first time in 30 years, I don’t have a record deal,” he said, according to CMTT. “Don’t know that I want one. I’m just grateful for where I’ve been, and you’ve been a big part of where I’ve been and where I’m going. To my MCA family, it was really a sweet ride the last 23 years, and I appreciate everything you do.”

Gill's last release with Universal was his tenth with that label -- October 2011's 'Guitar Slinger' -- which was his first collection of new songs in five years. Still, the Country Music Hall of Famer isn't slowing down by any means. After his last release, he said he actually felt more energized for the next phase, adding that fans won't have to wait another five years to hear from him.

“I built a studio in my home, and I feel completely energized,” he said. “I think the next 20 years will bring a whole lot more music than the last 20. Plus, mortality is rearing its ugly head. I want to create my biggest body of work while I still have my voice.” With or without a record label, we're confident that Gill will release some incredible work in the coming years.